Every step she took, Cordelia winced. Angelus’s rough treatment of her the night before had caused the brunette to almost call in work and pretend she was sick. Again. But Cordelia knew that should she do that, they would cotton on to the fact that something was wrong.
They weren’t stupid.
Only last week she’d called in when Angelus, in a particularly brutal and dark mood after a run in with Holtz, had pinned her to the bed on her stomach and taken her in a way that Cordelia had never wanted to, nor never would again want to be taken. It was bloody… It was brutal and it hurt in ways she’d never imagined.
But she’d never screamed once. She never cried, nor whimpered, pleaded nor begged. Cordelia Chase, former Queen of Sunnydale took what she deserved and when he’d left, she simply washed traces of his touch away and fallen into another dream.
This time. There was no Angel. He hadn’t been there for a few weeks now, yet another way Cordelia was being punished for her body responding to a demon. To him. On the outside, he looked like her Angel. But on the inside, he was bitter, twisted. It wasn’t Angel, she knew that. Angel would never treat her the way he did. Would never raise her hopes in one breath, one kind look and then dash them in the next with just a smirk.
The smirk now, was familiar. Whereas the silly, dorky smile of his when Angel was here and happy had once been the mainstay of her life, now? It was that smirk. That cold, cruel hearted smirk. It was his trademark. Sometimes, Cordelia scared herself by calling him Angel… It only served to make her feel worse. How could that be Angel when he was so… Cold?
Gingerly, she stepped down into the hotel, “Hey guys, wha – “
Her sentence died on her lips as she was met with the sight of Wesley, Gunn, Fred and… Buffy? Spike? She’d known they were visiting but… Was it really this week? All clamoured round the seats. “What’s going on?” She asked.
“Maybe you should tell us…”
Cordelia glared at Buffy, just who the hell did she think she was? Pain forgotten about, albeit briefly, her eyes flashed angrily, “And who died and made YOU Queen?”
“Actually, I did… The dying part, anyway.” Retorted Buffy, looking at Cordelia. “Were you really that stupid?”
“What’s that supposed to mean? You *knew* about what happened, if you think you can come down here and lecture me on the finer points of Angel’s soul then…”
“Spike smelt him on you.” Said Buffy, gently, her eyes soft, sympathetic.
Cordelia felt lost. She felt lost – at least this thing with Angelus, she’d had control over but now… She didn’t, and Angelus could hurt her friends. “Wh-what? I don’t know what you mean…” She lied.
Wesley looked at her, disappointed, “You know he’s not Angel, how could you betray him that way?”
“Be-betray him?” Asked Cordelia, tears filling her eyes, “Is that what you think? Is that really what you think of me?”
“Cordelia…” Started Gunn, hating seeing her like this.
“No!” She said, shaking her head, “Is that what you think? That I *like* what he does to me? I mean, Spike’s SMELT him on me, you must know what he does. Do you think I *like* that he wears his face? DO YOU? Do you think I like being pounded into a mattress while he tells me I’ll never see Angel again? Do you think I *like* that he PRETENDS to be Angel? HUH?!”
Fred sat there, watching in abject horror. “But… But you told us he’d left town, our sources…”
“He *killed* our sources… Haven’t you wondered why you haven’t seen them around lately?” She asked, desperately. “He told me…”
“He… Forces… You… Into… This…” Said Wesley, through gritted teeth.
Cordelia laughed, she actually laughed – a sad laugh, looking at the floor. “No.” She said quietly, “He doesn’t force me. My body betrays me. My body betrays Angel when I react to him.” She whispered, “He came to me a few nights after… Told me that if I didn’t, he’d kill you and Gunn and Fred and everyone I cared about. And I wouldn’t let him. Sometimes…”
Cordelia stopped, squeezing her eyes shut, “Sometimes, he’s so gentle… So tender… That I can’t help but think that it’s Angel… But…” Tears slipped from her cheeks, “If I call out his name… He punishes me… Tells me that… That he’s not him, that he’ll never be him…”
Gunn stood to wrap her in his arms, but Cordelia pulled away, violently, “Don’t touch me…” She growled.
“Don’t…” She said, shaking her head. “Just don’t, okay? Don’t touch me. Look, when Angel first… When he lost his soul, I knew what I’d done.” She whispered. “I knew I’d killed him… And that hurt more than anything but… Knowing he could kill you guys. This way, it’s easier…”
“EASIER?” Growled Gunn, “This AIN’T easier, Barbie! He’s workin’ you into an early grave and you’re LETTING HIM DO IT!”
“What choice do I have?” She asked quietly.
“Do you think Angel would want him to be doing this?” Asked Wesley.
Cordelia glared at him, “How can you ask me that? I’m doing what’s RIGHT…”
“No, what’s right would be to stake him…” Said Buffy gently.
“And could you?” Asked Cordelia, “Could you willingly drive a stake through his heart?” She looked at Buffy, “C’mon, you killed him once, go do it again. Oh, but I bet you could, since he’s not the great love of your life anymore.”
Buffy shook her head, “Cordy, we’re only trying to help…”
“Don’t call me that.” She whispered.
“Don’t call me CORDY…”
Fred looked at Wesley, the past few weeks had been hard on them all, had they honestly not noticed Cordelia going downhill. “He broke her.” She whispered.
“Not yet.” Said Cordelia, gently. “He didn’t break me yet…”
“But you know he’s going to.” Said Gunn, shaking his head.
“That’s what he wants.” Said Cordelia, “That’s his big schemey plan thing. And then… When he does, you can kill him.”
“We’ll… Get his soul back!” Said Fred.
“NO!” Said Cordelia, looking up and shaking her head, desperately. “No… We won’t.”
Wesley looked at her, puzzled, “But… Why? I thought this would be what you wanted…”
Cordelia shook her head, “Sure, what I want is Angel coming back knowing the things I’ve done, the choices I’ve made. How would he react… Knowing that I’ve… That I’ve slept with… With him WILLINGLY…”
“But to keep your friends ALIVE!” Said Fred, “He’d never…”
“I said no.” Said Cordelia quietly, “This would kill him.” She whispered, “Knowing that I’ve… Knowing what I’ve done would hurt him more than anything else.” She said gently, “Angel never finds out.”
“Cordelia…” Started Buffy.
“I said drop it. I’ve made my decision. We all make mistakes. We all have to deal with the consequences.”
Wesley looked at her, “Cordelia, you don’t *deserve* this…”
“Don’t I?” Cordelia was *really* asking that question. Was honest-to-God asking the question of whether she deserved this.
“Of course not…”
Cordelia shook her head, “I used to think that but… Maybe it’s just my punishment. Do you know something? I haven’t had one dream of him… Not since I started this with Angelus. It used to bring comfort… Dreams of him.” She whispered, “We’d make love and he’d hold me and everything would be fine…”
“And then you’d wake up, right luv?” This was the first time Spike had spoke.
Cordelia looked at him and nodded.
“You keep wakin’ up and expectin’ it to be some kind of dream… Angelus wasn’t really there. Soul Boy was.”
She nodded again, fighting back tears.
“Does he hold you down, make you do things you don’t want?”
“SPIKE!” Yelled Buffy, “We don’t need details…”
“Let her answer the question…”
Cordelia nodded, numbly.
Spike stepped next to her, placing a hand on her shoulder, “Why is it you’ll let me touch you and not your friends?”
“Because I’m a demon.” He said gently, “I’m cold, soulless and you don’t deserve warmth or comfort, which you know one of your friends’ll bring, right?”
Cordelia nodded, tears sliding down her cheeks.
“You won’t kill him, because killing him will bring you relief and Angel’ll be really gone, hm?”
A sob escaped her lips and she crumpled, sitting down on the nearest chair, she wasn’t even good enough for comfort from Spike and he seemed to know this. Buffy and Fred both stood, tears sliding down their own cheeks whereas Gunn and Wesley watched, horrified.
“Cordelia, please…” Said Wesley, “Just listen to reason…”
“Luv…” Spike kneeled in front of her, “You know that Angel wouldn’t want you to do this. You know that he’d want you to kill him. He wouldn’t want you to hurt…”
From the relative reprieve of hiding behind her hands, Cordelia whispered, “He didn’t want to die either – he had no choice…”